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Biden to direct US states to expand vaccine eligibility by April 19

Joe Biden will urge US states to make all adult residents eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine from April 19, as the country continues to inoculate people at a rapid pace.

The US president is expected to announce the new target date on Tuesday, having overseen 150m shots in his first 75 days in office, according to a senior White House official. This would put his administration on track to meet Biden’s target of delivering 200m shots in his first 100 days in office.

The new date for universal adult eligibility is two weeks earlier than previously planned. About 40 per cent of US adults have now received at least one shot.

While individual states decide which of their residents is eligible for a vaccine, many are already allowing any adult to claim a shot, and all but two have announced plans to do so by or before April 19. Oregon and Hawaii have previously said they intend to start vaccinating everyone by the president’s previous target of May 1.

The US vaccine rollout has picked up pace in recent weeks, with the country now administering about 3m doses every day, according to data from Bloomberg.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 167m doses have now been administered — more than any other country. While 40 per cent of adults have received at least one shot, about a quarter have completed their course of vaccinations, including 55 per cent of people aged over 65.

Even as the vaccinations continue to gather speed, concern is building over a possible fourth wave of infections, with cases rising in many northern states, including Michigan, Illinois and Vermont.

There are now about 64,000 new cases being reported each day in the US, up from about 53,000 last month. Deaths, however, continue to fall to lows not seen since October, which US health officials believe is due in part to high levels of vaccinations among older adults.

Public health authorities have warned that new variants, such as the B.1.1.7 strain first detected in the UK, are behind part of the spread. Federal health officials have urged Americans not to abandon measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing, even as many states move to loosen or abandon restrictions.

Andy Slavitt, a White House coronavirus adviser, said on Monday: “We’re not there yet. The war against Covid-19 is far from over, far from won. The worst thing we could do right now would be to mistake progress for victory.”

He added: “If we let our guard down now, we will see more of our fellow Americans get sick and die unnecessarily.”

Video: Joe Biden’s Covid-19 vaccine programme speeds ahead | DC Diary

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